Have you ever asked this question of a client, board or organising committee and heard crickets? Nectar’s involvement in a MEA Award-winning Cause Related Event of the Year provides valuable lessons on the importance of knowing your ‘why’ for holding an event
Nectar was recently part of the team behind the FearLess National Conversation on PTSD which took out the Cause Related Event of the Year for Queensland at this year’s MEA Awards. Feedback from the judging panel indicated that one of their reasons for selecting this event as a winner was that it was an outcome driven event, with a clear vision of what it wanted to achieve from the outset. Winning this award has given me the opportunity to reflect on the importance of knowing your ‘why’ when planning and executing an event. What struck me was that it is actually quite rare to come across a client with a meaningful response to the “why are we holding this conference?” question, or give an answer that goes beyond revenue considerations.
So, what made the FearLess National Conversation on PTSD different?
Clear unwavering purpose – articulated in one sentence
The FearLess National Conversation on PTSD was, right from the start, a conversation, not a conference. These were FearLess Chair, Admiral Chris Barrie’s first words to me when I met with him and fellow FearLess co-founder Allan Behm in 2016. This statement conveyed inclusivity, two-way communication, listening to other points of view, collaboration and engagement. Hence, the event was never referred to as a conference, making it quite clear to all stakeholders what this event was about. It was through inclusive conversation they could make the positive change in the lives of those living with or impacted by PTSD and get the outcomes they were seeking..
Lesson: Before embarking on any event ask, why are we holding this event? What change do we want it to bring about? How will this change be measured? If you can’t answer these questions in simple terms, maybe you need to reassess your reasoning for holding it.
Objective woven into every aspect of the event
Conversation not conference was a tenet the FearLess Board held throughout the entire planning process. This created a clarity of vision that ran across every aspect of the event, from the program, sponsorship strategy, choice of destination and venue, right through to the ticketing strategy, event marketing, delivery and follow-up. This clearly defined purpose and focus paid off in invested stakeholders and a successful event which met, and in some aspects, surpassed its objectives.
Lesson: Think about how every aspect of your event aligns with the overall event objectives. This helps design an event that will attract the audience you are targeting and ensure a focused program with the outcome kept constantly top of mind.
All aspects of the event were audience driven
The National Conversation on PTSD sought to bring together the disparate groups impacted by PTSD and create a national strategy to mitigate the devastating impacts of PTSD on the Australian community. As an inaugural event with a very diverse audience, an additional layer of complexity was added to the organisation of the event. Designing a program that helped to solve a known problem, created meaningful content and a compelling reason for the target audience to attend. Tiered registration pricing that considered different budgets and communicating the importance of creating a safe, supportive and inclusive environment meant the event not only brought the right delegates into the room (where the magic happened) but also built a whole virtual community who are now actively engaged in the issue in between events.
Lesson: Make sure you know who your audience is. Why will they attend the event? What solution is this event providing for them?
The event had to produce a tangible outcome
The FearLess Board set as one of their objectives the production of a written communique which would sum up the outcomes of the conversation and the next steps. This desired outcome was communicated in all event marketing and at the event itself. The resulting document is now published on the FearLess website and creates a clear roadmap for the next two years. This is the embodiment of ‘do not leave a meeting without writing down the actions to be taken to achieve something’ – and ensuring everyone is aware.
Lesson: Ensure you have a clearly defined, communicated and measurable outcome for the event. Then set objectives that hold you to producing that outcome.
As event planners we are in an extraordinary position to help drive positive and lasting change in our community and the power events have to instigate this change. The FearLess National Conversation on PTSD was a great example of the far-reaching legacy that can be achieved by bringing people together to achieve a common and clearly identified objective.